Wednesday, February 1, 2012


I pulled off the N7 late on Saturday afternoon for a couple of minutes to photograph the water tanks below. To the left lay the stripped summer wheatfields, with a haze of blue mountains behind them. To the right the white watertanks, the windmill, and the thick wall of distant smoke which I later learned was issuing from the fire beginning to rage near Wellington and the beautiful Bainskloof. 

That fire has now been fought for three days with seven helicopters including two Oryx lent to the struggle by the air force. The main concern is property damage - there are people, homes and farms in the area, but I am not sure that it is a bad thing for the fynbos, which requires fire for regeneration and also for the germination of many plants. I don't know when last that area experienced a burn. 

Too-frequent fires are bad; similarly, long intervals without fire cause the vegetation to senesce. Ironicallly, both conditions are caused by humans: Cigarette butts, arson, and accident on the one hand, and zealous fire fighting and -prevention on the other. Just how fynbos evolved to require fire I don't know. This is not lightning country, but perhaps it was long, long ago. Perhaps ancient hunter gatherers were careless with their sparks. Since humans and fire came from Africa, perhaps it is fitting that this country needs flames in order to renew itself. 

Does this make a case for burning one's bridges?

No retreat, no retreat; they must conquer or die who have no retreat.

I wrote that in the back of my planner when I was 16. Had I read A Modern Comedy? What was chasing me? School. I hated school.

Not that I need to retreat. It's just where fire leads one.
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